Decision-Making: Personal and Life Choices
“Focusing Steps for
Personal Decision-Making” (SL#102)
by Wm. M. Pinson, Jr., Th.D. with Lloyd Elder, Th.D.
adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 10 - Decision-Making
How do you get focused for personal decisions? You might ask, “How do I look at a decision or center on this choice?” The basic steps discussed in the series on “Process and Tools” (SL articles #35 through 41, #98) apply to decisions made for
the individual life. However, here are some suggestions that apply more specifically to personal choices and decisions. They build on preparation and faith values.
Certainly God is not “up there” but everywhere. Yet in our everyday
life we often speak and act as if He were. The Christian servant leader
begins the process of decision-making by utilizing the resources especially
available to the follower of Christ. These include prayer, Bible study,
and being sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer at the onset of the decision-making
process helps to focus the decision on God. Before facts are gathered
or alternatives considered, prayer can help increase our desire to please
God, to know and follow His will, to advance His Kingdom. A passion
to serve God heightens our awareness of His direction through His written
Word--the Bible--and His living Word--the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible provides few specific answers
for the servant leader in regard to most decisions. The Bible does provide
basic guidelines, however, that help in the decision-making process.
For example, the Bible will not indicate the specific person to marry,
but the Bible will provide guidelines on what kind of person a Christian
should marry. The Bible contains no injunction against smoking tobacco--tobacco
was unknown in Bible times. However, the Bible speaks clearly about
care for the body, the basic principle being that the body is the temple
of the Holy Spirit. Known facts about the harm of tobacco to the body
leads to a decision about not smoking tobacco.
The Holy Spirit helps provide not only
guidance but also empowerment. Sometimes in the decision-making process
we come to a clear decision about what we ought to do, but we fall short
in carrying out the decision. All kinds of obstacles stand in the way
of doing what we know is right. The Holy Spirit supplies assistance
in the “want to” part of decision-making as well as the
- Look In.
Various forms of introspection should be part of the servant leader's decision-making
process. These include reason, intuition, and conscience.
- Look Outward.
Making good decisions calls for getting all of the information necessary to
make the decision. This calls for fact-finding. Determining what is truly
fact from what is merely opinion calls for tough-minded research. What is
considered “fact” has a way of changing. For example, what was
termed “fact” about the shape of the earth centuries ago is no
longer considered “fact.” The search for truth about reality is
a never-ending process. Decisions, however, usually cannot wait until every
fact is verified. What should we do then? Act on the best information that
can be obtained.
- In gathering information for making choices, go to the most reliable
sources you know--persons, materials, institutions. Seek experts, not
one but several, and compare information received from each. Avoid advertising
claims, obviously biased reports, and propaganda. Focus on objective sources
as much as possible, all the while realizing that objectivity is difficult
to come by.
- Ask helpful questions. Often an excellent way to determine the best
alternative among many choices is to ask questions, lots of questions.
Hurl a barrage of inquiries at the problem. The method of the child in
asking “Why?” over and over again is not a bad way to clarify
a decision. In the process, each answer to a question is followed by another
question until there really are no more valid questions to ask.
- Another set of questions might focus on resources. What alternative
in the decision would provide for the best use of available resources?
These resources may be talents, material possessions, time, or other entities.
No one has unlimited resources at his disposal, and thus the best use
of limited resources in keeping with priorities and objectives will often
lead to the best choice.
- Look Forward.
That's right, effective personal decision-making looks ahead.
It is not enough to look at decisions-in-the making as the way things are
now or the current set of facts. Wise choices also grow out of what you
want to become, or need to happen. Looking forward causes your life purpose
and your church's mission to kick in, contributing to your choices. It makes
you willing to make changes and take risks.
Conclusion: Choices and Consequences
Questions certainly ought to address the consequences of the decision. What will be the effect of this decision on my life? On my family? On my church? On my relation to God? On the cause of Christ? Some acts are not right or wrong in themselves but
must be evaluated on the effect they will have. When Paul helped early Christians with the decision whether or not they should eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, he used the question of effect. For example: If eating this meat caused offense to others,
he would not eat the meat although he believed there was nothing wrong with his eating the meat (see Romans 14:13-23; I Corinthians 8:1-13).
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in
the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Reflection: In making your decisions, consider the example
of Christ, applying it to your own life today as he applied to to the life
of his disciples in the First Century.
Here are some other questions to pose in regard to decisions:
- How does this decision fit with my basic values and beliefs?
- Does this decision reflect a passion to follow Christ and be obedient to
- If I follow this decision, would I be willing for eveyone to know about
- If I follow this decision, would I be willing for everyone to do the same?
- Can I really ask God to bless me in this decision?
- How do I “feel” about the decision--drained or energized? Calm
or anxious? Hesitant or eager?
What are some other questions you believe helpful in making or evaluating a decision?
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For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership